Comics in The Avengers


The most obvious incarnation of comics in The Avengers is 'The Winged Avenger', an episode which has a comic strip villain, a comic strip company and some humour at the expense of then comic book related smash hit series, Batman. It also has the work of top British comic strip artist, Frank Bellamy. There's a quick look at Bellamy and his work on The Avengers below, as well as an attempt to find out which other comics were used in the making of the episode.

Tintin and the English Gentleman

One of the more endearing of Steed's little quirks is his occasional habit of picking up a copy of a Tintin book to read. Herge's boy reporter character first appeared in 1929 in French and then Belgian, but his adventures weren't regularly translated into English until 1958, and according to T.F. Mills ( "it took the British edition five years to become a staple part of the children's book market", so they were at the start of their voyage into the English consciousness when Steed first picked them up.

The first example is in 'The Golden Fleece', where we find Steed reading "Tintin au Pays de L'Or Noir" (Tintin in the Land of Black Gold) in the original French. It was not available in English at the time the episode was made.
He reads "Tintin in Tibet" (in English) in his chalet at the holiday camp in "Man with Two Shadows. This volume was one of the original wave of Methuen Books translations in 1958.
He also reads "Tintin : Le Lotus Bleu" (again, in French) in the tag scene of the Tara episode "Look- (stop me if you've heard this one) but there were these two fellers...". Incredibly, this was not translated into English until 1983 due to the publishers believing the story was too problematic for its intended readership.

Thanks to George and Piers. Great minds do think alike.

The Winged Avenger

Steed Goes Birdwatching... Emma Does A Comic Strip

Filmed in December 1966, 'The Winged Avenger' is the most celebrated example of comic strips in The Avengers. Written by Gordon Flemyng and Peter Duffell and directed by Richard Harris it features Steed and Mrs. Peel at their 60s Pop Op Mod Art best. The illustrations for the full screen illustrations which lead out into scenes were drawn by celebrated British comic artist Frank Bellamy.

Run your mouse over the panels with a blue border to get the full effect.

Poole is surprised by The Winged Avenger

The story itself is no great shakes, but the gimmick of having the comic book panels fade into the live action was something which greatly impressed me on first seeing it. That they also got in an artist of the calibre of Frank Bellamy was either superb taste or extremely good luck. It's difficult to see how it would have worked so well with other British artists of the time as Bellamy's photo-realistic style suits the purpose to a 'T'.

Emma visits Sir Lexius Cray.

Frank Bellamy

Frank Bellamy was born in Kettering in 1917 and worked as an illustrator in a post-war advertising agency. Following a stint as a gag/editorial cartoonist for a local newspaper during the war years he moved to London in 1949, intending to make a go of at as a freelance illustrator. Initially working on spot illustrations for women's magazine 'Home Notes', he managed to get work on the relatively expensively-printed 'Mickey Mouse Weekly' on the back of an advertising job for Gibbs toothpaste. This led to work for Swift, the 'younger readers' equivalent of the then ground-breaking and extremely popular Eagle comic.

Emma is menaced by The Winged Avenger

Bellamy worked on strips for Swift (including Swiss Family Robinson and Robin Hood and his Merrie Men) until 1957 when he made the logical leap sideways and began to work for The Eagle. Like Mickey Mouse Weekly, The Eagle was printed, unlike many of the other comics of the period, to a very high standard using the photogravure process and on a relatively high standard of paper stock. Without this quality, much of the printed detail of Bellamy's work would have been lost.

Bellamy's cover for 'The Winged Avenger'

For The Eagle, Bellamy worked on 'The Happy Warrior' a one-page full-colour weekly strip relating the life of Winston Churchill, which was very successful and links him with Patrick Macnee who worked on 'The Valiant Years' a TV documentary series based on Churchill's memoirs. Bellamy also worked on 'Fraser of Africa', 'Heros The Spartan' and a revamp of the title's most-popular character, Dan Dare, which caused uproar due to Bellamy's refusal to look backwards.

'Arnie Packer' works on a Frank Bellamy illustration

Bellamy's next work was for the Gerry Anderson comic TV Century 21, for who he produced a 'Thunderbirds' strip so dynamic it was almost possible to view the show as one which used actors rather than puppets (even though the likenesses of the puppets were retained!). Following the closure of TV Century 21 Bellamy took on more straightforward illustration work (this had continued during his stint on TV Century 21 as he drew a number of comic strip adaptations of Hammer films for The Daily Record in Scotland), including some Doctor Who illustrations for The Radio Times which were subsequently collected into a book. In 1971 he began illustrating 'Garth', a daily strip in The Daily Mirror newspaper; it was his last major piece and he died in 1976, while still working on it.

Read more about Frank Bellamy here.

Hawkaaaaa!! The Avengers and Blackhawk

Not all the strip illustrations for 'The Winged Avenger' were produced by Frank Bellamy. The one below is adapted (ie somebody has drawn on top of a panel) from an issue of 'Blackhawk', published in the USA by DC Comics. It would be interesting to find out which issue it was, and if anybody has the time, the inclination and (most importantly) the Blackhawk collection to do so it would be a welcome addition, especially if it was confirmed that it was the same US comic which acted as a base for 'The Winged Avenger' (see screen grab of comic above with US toy car track advert on the back cover).

The Blackhawks can be seen in the bottom left corner of
the panel

Thanks to David for the scans.

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